Mike Huyler has made plenty of moves in his three years with the Pittsburgh Pirates' organization, but each has been lateral, from one Class-A minor league team to another.
Last week, Huyler, who attended Marina High School and Golden West College, finally started going in the right direction--up.
He had started the season at shortstop for Salem (Virginia), the Pirates' Class-A team in the Carolina League. Last Tuesday, Huyler received the news that he had been promoted to Harrisburg (Pennsylvania), the Pirates' double-A team in the Eastern League.
"It was great to get the call," Huyler said. "I had to look on a map to see where I was going, but it was easy to find. It was only a five-hour drive."
He went straight from his car into the starting lineup Tuesday night. He was on a new level and in a new league, but he didn't have to look far if he was searching for something familiar.
In his first at-bat against the Reading (Pennsylvania) Phillies, Huyler lined out to pitcher David Holdridge from Ocean View High School. They had played against each other in the Sunset League in 1986.
"I didn't know it was him until I read the paper the next day," Huyler said. "I went up to him the next day and we talked about playing against each other in high school."
Now that Huyler, a right-handed hitter, has moved up to double A, there will be increased pressure to produce at the plate. Since he was signed, the single criticism of his game has been his inability to hit. Through Saturday, he was one for 13 (.077) at Harrisburg.
"He was drafted for his glove," Golden West Coach Bert Villareal said. "There is no question about that. He hit well for Golden West (.340), but people have been a bit surprised how well he's done in the minors."
Huyler, who was drafted in the 13th round of the 1988 draft and played at Watertown (New York) in the New York-Penn League, batted only .161 in 42 games.
"The wood bat and the better pitching were hard to get used to," he explained.
Huyler started to show improvement last season, when he hit .238 in 82 games at Augusta (Georgia) in the South Atlantic League and then .250 in 44 games for Salem.
This season, Huyler pushed his average over .300 for a time and was hitting .298 when he got called up to double A.
"It's tough when people say you're not supposed to hit on this level," Huyler said. "But I'm trying to work at it all I can. The hardest thing for me right now is to keep weight on."
Huyler, who is 6-foot-1, weighs only 160 pounds despite constant efforts to gain weight. He spends his off-seasons lifting weights at Golden West.
"The season is so long, it makes it hard to keep my strength up," Huyler said.
Especially if you're always on the move.
Huyler's promotion to double A puts him on a par with his good friend James Buccheri, a former Golden West teammate. Buccheri was taken by Oakland in the 24th round of the 1988 draft and played at Southern Oregon in the Class-A Northwest League.
He spent last season at Madison (Wisconsin) in the Class-A Midwest League and began this season at Modesto in the Class-A California League.
Buccheri was promoted in mid-May to Huntsville (Alabama), the Athletics' double-A team in the Southern League. But he, too, has been struggling at the plate. He has hit .150 in 34 games.
Buccheri will be remembered best at Golden West for his base-stealing ability. He set the school's single-season record for steals with 46 in 1988. He also hit .418 and was named co-most valuable player of the South Coast Conference.
He stole 43 bases at Madison last season.
Trivia Time. Catcher Lance Parrish, who is having an outstanding season for the Angels, came to California in a trade for what Orange County minor leaguer in 1988? Answer below.
Change for the better. Jason Friedman, a former Cypress College standout, got off to a poor start this season with Winter Haven, the Boston Red Sox' Class-A team in the Florida State League. In 50 games, he hit .160 and had one home run and 11 runs batted in.
Two weeks ago, he was moved to Elmira (New York) in the Class-A New York-Penn League and things are going much better. In 10 games, Friedman is hitting .378 with nine RBIs.
Silent Sam. The on-again, off-again career of right-hander Sam August is on again.
August, a former Fountain Valley High School and Orange Coast College pitcher, has been in the minors since 1986 but has appeared in only 38 games because of problems with his pitching elbow.
August, who has pitched in seven games over the past two years, is playing for Houston's Class-A team in the Arizona League, which began its season two weeks ago. He is 1-0 in two games and has yet to allow a run.
August's best season in the minors was in 1987, when he was 12-1 with a 1.72 ERA for Houston's Asheville (North Carolina) team in the South Atlantic League.
Trivia Answer. Parish came to the Angels for former Ocean View pitching star David Holdridge, who is 6-6 with a 4.62 earned-run average for Reading.